Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sound Bytes : Hibernate Special [part three]

What started out as a Sound Bytes column featuring Hibernate Recordings latest releases, ended up growing into a three week label special. I just couldn't hold back sharing with you the music that has been warming up my speakers and my soul. Here's the last entry in this Sound Bytes installment, and be sure to check out [ part one ]  [ part two ] and a Headphone Commute Mix by the man behind the label, Jonathan Lees.

Offthesky - The Beautiful Nowhere
Jason Corder's moniker, offthesky, needs no introduction. He has previously released albums on labels such as Home Normal, Experimedia, Tokyo Droning, Symbolic Interaction, Somnia and many others. With The Beautiful Nowhere, Corder arrives at Hibernate Recordings. For the album, the label goes the extra mile, and packages the limited edition CD in a hand-cut, textured organic mulberry paper sleeve, which in turn is cradled in a hand sewn hessian bag. Unfolding this beautifully presented physical release offers a hint of nostalgia for the process of carefully peeling open vinyl records, a unique experience destroyed by the unlimited supply of digital reproductions. Unfolding the music through headphones offers a familiar offthesky sound of electro-acoustic exploration, experimental field recordings, and gentle strumming guitar. Throughout the album, ambient swells carry the bowed string vibrations forward into the open fields, where plucked strings and piano chords offer a sense of a rhythm, stretched and contracted with the passage of time. For The Beautiful Nowhere, Corder attempts to avoid much of electronic processing, and instead concentrates on purely acoustic instruments. Thus, besides his favorite guitar, we welcome an appearance by harmonium, cello, toy piano, kalimba, vibraphone, and voice. Recorded in a cabin near Carter Lake, Colorado, the title of the album and its music explore the subjects of isolation, remoteness, and seclusion. Fans of 12k artists (and of course, Hibernate) will find inner beauty in the abstract subjects explored within.

Wil Bolton - Time Lapse
Listening to Wil Bolton's ambient drones, synthetic bleeps, and organic chimes, is like sitting in a crowded public space with a pair of open headphones - the internal guitar loops leak out, while the external plate clanking leaks in. These sounds all mix up and create an atmosphere of their own, a sense of a live performance in an outdoor setting, a feeling of a whole city living in your head. Although Time Lapse is the debut album for Wil Bolton recording under his real name, his past releases on labels such as Unlabel, U-Cover and Kahvi Collective may be familiar to people following his alias, CHEjU. Based out of Liverpool, UK, Bolton has been producing melodic electronica since 2004. Besides the numerous EPs on a handful of netlabels, Bolton has put out a few recordings on Boltfish Recordings, an independent experimental label that he runs together with Murray Fisher (aka Mint). Certain passages on Time Lapse remind me of Celer's Engaged Touches - that eerie feeling of pulsating waves penetrating lo-fi field recordings with saturated frequencies. They do, however, have a more upbeat feel, scattering the dark clouds with a gentle breeze of wind-chimes. Blending electro-acoustic tonalities with processed organic sounds, Bolton creates an atmosphere of subtle environmental soundscapes and vast synthetic oscilations. Time Lapse is a perfect fit for Hibernate's already astounding catalog of music to keep you warm throughout the winter.

Listening Mirror - Outside Heaven
Listening Mirror is the ambient project of English artist, Jeff Stonehouse. Though not formally trained in music, Stonehouse’s grounding in the recording, generation, and manipulation of sound has produced stellar results. With Stonehouse furnishing field recordings and treatments, and Kate Tustain's guest appearance on the delicate piano keys, the two-track EP turns into a textured meditation on soothing atmospheres and sounds. Awake But Still Adrift cracks open this release like dawn’s light poking through my window blinds. Gentle but persistent, it tugs at my senses like a child, breaking through the somnolence to become fully alert. Yet, even as I face the day, I am cocooned and lifted up by gentle washes of frequencies. Multiple layers unfold as the music swirls around me, suffusing joy and peace through my anxious being. Outside Heaven is spacey ambience, punctuated by bird calls and piano motes drifting in and out of the mix as it meanders to its fine conclusion. Be sure to pick up Listening Mirror's recent releases: Spires, Spirals And Stones (Heat Death, 2011), Wet Roads (Audio Gourmet Netlabel, 2011) and ...from dreams... (Entropy Records, 2011). Stay tuned for a full length release on Bathetic Records, titled The Heart of the Sky". All physical releases in the Postcard Series are strictly limited to 100 copies. Although digital versions are available for download (some even for free), I recommend you reserve your physical copies well in advance! Recommended for fans of quiet, ambient drones and contemplative work.

Listening Mirror review prepared by Elizabeth Klisiewicz.
Rest of the text by HC.

Sound Bytes : Hibernate Special [part two]

I just spent my first week with Spotify (since it went live in US), and I'm already reeling from all the music that now I have access to. But being overwhelmed by a nearly unlimited catalog of digital media makes me want to pay even more attention to handcrafted and meticulously produced albums. Labels like Hibernate Recordings strive to remain if not profitable, then at least relevant in this music industry, and it is the focus to detail, both from the label and the signed artists, that continues to retain my faithful following. Support for this type of music is easy to provide - if you like it, buy a limited edition physical copy directly from the label - you will have a piece of history in your hand, holding one out of a hundred limited copies. And if it's already sold out, you can always buy a digital copy from bandcamp, or at least send a 'thank you' to the artist. I may be just rambling here, but the recent exposure of an enormous digital library on Spotify once again reinforced the concept of appreciating music, made with one major ingredient: love...

This Sound Bytes entry is accompanied by an exclusive Hibernate Mix. Make sure you also read [ part one ] and [ part three ]

Field Rotation - And Tomorrow I Will Sleep
There seems to be more than just a collaboration between Daniel Crossley's Fluid Audio and Jonathan Lees' Hibernate Recordings on compilations, such as the Japan benefit release, Kanshin -- some artists appear to migrate, or rather float, between these independent labels. Christoph Berg, recording under his alias Field Rotation is one of those lucky fellows who seems to have a deep well of inspiration, artistic creativity, and genre spanning output. After a few carefully crafted releases, Lich Und Schatten (2009) and Acoustic Tales (2011), Berg emerges on Hibernate with a conceptual album, produced and recorded after many sleepless nights. Designed to serve as Berg's own lullaby, the slow moving drones and peaceful waves of sound swell and recede in the peripheral auditory field of the subconscious mind, settling the thoughts that rewind the remnants of the day. Gentle strings seep through the frequencies, and penetrate the half asleep brain, painting fractal patterns of colorful light behind the closed eyelids. The six tracks on the album are almost designed for a short day-time nap of an agitated patient, cycling through names like A dimly haze (Asleep Pt. 1), Shoreline (Adrift, Dreaming), Slumber, and finally Swayed by the wind (Awakening). Packaged with extreme care and personal touch, each physical copy is wrapped in a hand-cut personalized envelope (mine came with my printed name!), in a hand sewn fabric sleeve. The cover art is by none other than Antonymes with a mastering touch from Rudi Arapahoe. I almost can't wait for my next jet-lag - I will surely remember to put on this wonderful album and enjoy the fantastic atmospheres that it offers right beneath the thin veil of dreams. Good night...

Danny Saul - Kinison - Goldthwait
After his 2009 solo debut Harsh, Final. on his very own White Box label, Danny Saul lands on Hibernate. The cover art, titled Boxers by Rachel Goodyer, is at once mysterious, and perhaps a bit deceiving. With a few photographs of American stand up comedians Sam Kinison and Bobcat Goldthwait, and the reminder of their feud over the origin of their act, the over aura only intensifies the feeling of action, dispute, and fierce confrontation. Yet the music of Kinison - Goldthwait is nothing of that sort. Ambient excursions into incredibly textured sound fill my room with a sense of longing, sadness and nostalgia. Titles of the tracks hint at a deeply rooted conceptual work, but in fact provide an 'ambiguous narrative' as Saul himself admits: "Throughout working on this record, for some reason, I couldn't stop thinking about these three people and this particular incident on the Howard Stern show"  - The argument between the comedians became explosive when Howard Stern added some fuel into the fire on his radio show - "That's not to say the music or album is in any way conceptual - it isn't." The atmospheric pads, deep rumbling drones, and reverb drenched guitar loops, build up towards the second half of the album, exploring minimalism, dynamics, and deconstruction of what should be a recognizable instruments into their blistered, raw, material form. Sine waves oscillate, then go out of phase, fighting for the lead, until they are thrown off by hungry distortion that once again climaxes and dies. Perhaps the concept of the album is there all along, and instead of comedy, Danny Saul is able to convey the duo's tragic rivalry through music. Highly Recommended!

Szymon Kaliski - For Isolated Recollections
Simple keys and sounds of a water stream seem to be the minimal elements comprising the four-track ambient release by Szymon Kaliski, a young musician from a small town near Poznań in Poland. For Isolated Recollections is a sixth installment in Hibernate's Postcard Series. Designed out of delicate loops and field recordings, the recordings are at once basic and complex, like the Buddha's lotus flower sermon, surrounded by complete silence. Hinting at inner insight and personal reflections in isolated surroundings, these miniature recollections offer a meditative soundtrack to a restless mind. With lo-fi crackle, static and organic imperfections, the sounds are left to unfold at their own pace, in their own space, free of structure and suffocation. Kaliski's previous release includes an digital release on David Newman's Audiobulb offshoot, Audiomoves, titled Out Of Forgetting (2010). Easily a candidate of future signing to pioneering electro-acoustic labels like 12k, Kaliski demonstrates a complete restraint and control over the sound, which is a welcome breath of fresh air, in a densely populated bombardment of everyday frequencies. All physical releases in the label's Postcard Series are strictly limited to 100 copies. With many past installments already out of stock, I recommend that you reserve your physical copies. Some digital versions (including this one) are available directly from the artist's bandcamp site, with no set minimum price. File under hauntology.

Sound Bytes : Hibernate Special [part one]

If you haven't yet noticed this wonderful micro-independent label from Hebden Bridge (West Yorkshire, UK), perhaps we can help... Hibernate is only two years old (est. 2009), but so far in its lifetime, it managed to capture our attention with every single release. From miniature 3" CDrs in the Postcard Series to an extremely limited edition of hand-cut tea-aged vintage-string-wrapped fragile envelopes, to textured organic mulberry paper sleeves in hand-sewn hessian bags, each release is cared for with great attention to detail, and most importantly, love... And the music? From Talvihorros to Mark Harris to Clem Leek, the artists from the label keep on surprising our ears, topping our charts, and capturing our hearts! And in this year alone, the label has managed to put out close to a dozen releases already (and it's only July)! So before the end of the year is upon us, let's jump right to it, and discover all that is beautiful about Hibernate Recordings.

This Sound Bytes entry is accompanied by an exclusive Hibernate Mix. Make sure you also read [ part two ] and [ part three ]

Simon Bainton - Sun Settlings
Sun Settlings is a debut solo release for Simon Bainton, who, along with Alex Smalley (aka Olan Mill) has already been introduced to the world as Pausal through their self-titled EP on Highpoint Lowlife in 2009 and first full-length, Lapses on Barge Recordings in 2010. Now, armed with a handful of piano keys, a collection of field recordings from the island of Anglesey (North Wales, UK), ambient atmospherics and light textural drone, Bainton paints a postcard with acoustic colors and warm pastel tones. Released as the fifth entry in Hibernate's Postcard Series, this seven-track/twenty-minute journey across the major key of Irish Sea, countryside land and spiteful wind, Sun Settlings is a drifting meditation on the landscape and its sonic ghosts. The EP opens up with an Arrival, a light piano medley with string background and splashing waves. Things get a little melancholic and incredibly beautiful once the key is dropped into its minor cousin, with the help of a few mournful strings, on a short vignette titled Sun Settlings Pt 2. The journey is resolved with the closing Going Home Drone, a minimal exploration or gated vocals, ~440Hz oscillating tone, and an echoing of a fading light. Sun Settlings (and yes, there's a letter 'L' in there) makes a great contribution towards the eight postcards already released, with entries by Relmic Statute, Ithaca Trio, Listening Mirror, Damian Valles, Szymon Kaliski, Cought In The Wake Forever / Karina ESP / Sheepdog and Yellow6 & David Newlyn. Can you collect them all? The question is how can you not? All physical releases in the Postcard Series are strictly limited to 100 copies, and are already out of stock. Although digital versions are available for download (some even for free), I recommend you reserve your physical copies well in advance!

Bengalfuel - Sprague / Edgemere
Sprague and Edgemere are actually two separate EPs, released by Bengalfuel on Hibernate in 2011. But because each is only 4 tracks, with similar themed cover art, and released only a few months apart, forgive me if I cover them both as one. In fact, Sprague and Edgemere are the first two installments in a four-part series, capturing the recording sessions by Lou DiBenedetto and Joe LiTrenta inspired by "surrounding ghosts and spiritual entities". The music becomes an offering to the souls caught in between two dimensions, inhabiting the world of mortals, occasionally haunting our lives. Ambient synth pads, drenched in an incredible ethereal atmosphere, stretch their outwardly existence towards new heights. All is calm, until a distant, dub-techno beat creeps in, setting the mood for the progression of the record. When the kick drum sets in, I am immediately reminded by my favorite works from Yagya, The Sight Below, and DeepChord Presents Echospace. And then I'm lowered, back into the pool of ambiance and bliss. For this series, each release is accompanied by a music video piece directed by LiTrenta. The duo also has a few full length digital releases: Woglum (self, 2010), Durban (Isolationism, 2010), Laudaten (Lizard Breakfast, 2011), and Chardavoyne (self, 2011). Be sure to also check out Bengalfuel's Feldspar EP on Rural Colours - a subscription-only sub-label of Hibernate releasing experimental folk, ambient, and drone on 3" mini CDrs. Bengalfuel's music has been a soundtrack to many afternoons. Recommended!

VA - Kanshin
The news of the tragic events of the Tōhoku Earthquake in Japan may have slipped from the front pages of your local paper, but the people who experienced the ordeal have been touched forever. And the musicians try to help in the only way that they know how - with music. Kanshin is a double CD compilation jointly curated by Daniel Crossley (Fluid Audio) and Jonathan Lees (Hibernate) to raise money for Japan's recovery. All of the profits will be contributed via Ian Hawgood towards ongoing relief efforts: "Ian lives in Japan and his wife is currently working with both the Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support organisation (JEARS) in Sendai and surrounding areas, as well as the Direct Help for Victims and Animals Rejected from Shelters in Japan group who are going up to areas which are not receiving government support for food, water, basic supplies, as well as rebuilding and cleaning up." And with 30 tracks, spanning almost three hours, any fan of electronic, ambient, and modern classical music should be happy, honored, and proud to own a copy of this release! Let me take a moment and rattle off a roster of appearances: Clem Leek, Hummingbird, P Jørgensen & Ian Hawgood, Wil Bolton, Field Rotation, Library Tapes, Yellow6, Maps & Diagrams with Ylid, Yann Novak, offthesky, The Moving Dawn Orchestra, Aaron Martin & Machinefabriek, Jeremy Bible & Jason Henry, Bengalfuel, Talvihorros, Alex Durlak, Antonymes, Kyle Bobby Dunn and many, many others that I can't fit into this short writeup! As of this writing, the compilation is already out of stock, and although there are no plans in reprinting the physical copy, a digital version is available for directly from

Interview with Submotion Orchestra

Tell us about Submotion Orchestra. Where does the name come from? How did you guys all meet?
We originally met in Leeds. We all knew each other from various projects, gigs and sessions, since Leeds has a very vibrant music scene going on, but we'd never all played together. Tommy and Ruckspin originally brought the band together after wanting to play some dubstep-influenced material in a live setting, making use of the players' jazz backgrounds as well. We all came in one by one until the size and atmosphere of the players felt right. The name came at the end of one of the usual band-naming sessions that last for ever and throw up a lot of very bad names. Luckily most of these have been forgotten. By experience, as soon as someone says a name that doesn't sound absolutely terrible, it'll work...

In a seven piece band, describe the process of composition. Is each artist responsible for his own instrument? What about the lyrics of each song?
The composition varies. Tommy originally brought a lot of the initial material to the table, while we revisited some of the tunes Ruckspin had originally done on Ranking Records to adapt them to the Submotion sound. Once things were in place, the other members of the band started to bring material in too. Generally, once the main parts or hooks of the tunes had been written, they were brought to the band, where everyone comes in on the arranging and individual parts. Most of the tunes ended up in a pretty different place to how they originally sounded, though a couple stayed quite close. It's always a bit tricky with so many people to get everyone's opinions and thoughts covered, but generally we all know what sound we're aiming towards, and it usually ends up getting there pretty naturally and without much controversy. Tommy however is the main lyricist.

There are definitely dubstep elements in your music, (which I'm sure come from Ruckspin). What about the jazzy components? Who are the influences behind these organic and etherial sounds?
We're all equally responsible for the mix of influences. Fatty's been involved in grime and hip-hop projects, which inform the bass-end of the music pretty heavily, while Tommy, Taz and Bobby all have their backgrounds in jazz-based music, as does Ruby, and we've all drawn upon that. But if you listen closely, each instrument has its own feel - Danny's percussion has a bit of Brazil in there, Taz's keyboards show his early synth and ambient influences, and Tommy's approach to the drums is very jazz-based. We're trying to get a jazz sensibility into a music that doesn't always have it, but works with it very nicely. And the ethereal nature of the sounds has a lot to do with Dom's sound designing.

Talk about your live gigs... How are they different form studio recordings? Do you discover new interactions that make their way back into your studio?
Because of the jazz background of most of us, we're not the sort of band who are happy to play the same tunes the same way every night. Quite a few of the tunes have developed differently through playing live, and there's sections to some songs that you won't find on the album. Solos will often also be quite different. The instrumental tunes are also a lot heavier and more active live, and now as we're developing material for the second album, we're wanting to do it as live as possible to keep that feel there.

What are you working on right now, and what's next for your band?
We're currently getting material together for the second album, and fitting in rehearsals for it whenever we can manage, since the summer's pretty busy with festivals and gigs. There'll be some stuff that will keep fans of the first album happy, but hopefully also a few things that will move the sound on a bit and surprise people. For the rest of the year, we've got a summer full of festivals - Big Chill, WOMAD, GreenMan, Soundwave and Outlook in Croatia - and then in October/November a UK and Europe tour. So not much downtime, but it's good to keep the momentum going.

Be sure to read Headphone Commute's Sound Bytes featuring Submotion Orchestra's Finest Hour. Also, check out our Track of the Week with Submotion Orchestra's All Yours.